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UK waterways cruises
Coastal, Canal, and River Cruises
Passengers on the Canal Voyagers narrowboat pair Snipe and Taurus
chat in a lock. INSET BELOW: The Majestic Line cruises to Argyll and the Inner
Hebrides, using a pair of restored wooden fishing vessels.
By Durant Imboden
fishermen, narrowboat captains, and bargees may not be as important to Britain's
commerce as they were a century or two ago, but their spiritual
descendants are still plying the UK's coastline and inland waterways.
Today, however, fish are more likely to be served to onboard guests than pulled
from the sea, and freight has been largely replaced by human cargo--or, more
specifically, by travelers who are looking for a more intimate cruising
experience than they'd find on a 4,000-passenger Behemoth of the Seas or
even a 400-passenger MS Croesus.
The British Isles offer several types of small-ship (or, in some cases, smallish-boat)
- Coastal cruises on vessels
that carry 12 to 50
guests, which typically explore tiny ports along the coasts and islands of
Scotland and England.
- Narrowboat cruises on canal boats
with a beam of seven feet or less that travel singly or in pairs, carrying
fewer than a dozen passengers in what might be termed "compact luxury."
- Barge cruises on converted
Dutch-style coal, grain, or freight barges that
normally carry anywhere from eight to 12 passengers. These barges are
than narrowboats, so you're more likely to find them on the Thames or the
Caledonian Canal than in the narrow rural and industrial canals that date
back to the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
Note: In this article, we're focusing on coastal, narrowboat, and barge cruises
with professional captains and crews, and not on self-drive boats that can be hired.
If you're interested in skippering a small boat, see our page of links for
Canal Boat Rentals.
Top photo copyright ©
Inset photo copyright ©
The Majestic Line.